Mosque Expansion Sparks Business Concerns

An application to move an All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center branch a few doors down in a business park has brought religious partners out in support and neighboring businesses out in protest.

ADAMS-Ashburn chair and Board of Trustees member Syed Alam said the ADAMS Center at Beaumeade doesn’t have room for all the people who want to pray there. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)
ADAMS-Ashburn chair and Board of Trustees member Syed Alam said the ADAMS Center at Beaumeade doesn’t have room for all the people who want to pray there. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

The ADAMS Center at Beaumeade is the first of its kind—a mosque renting space from a synagogue, the Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation. It’s also outgrown the space. After 200 congregants come in for Friday prayers, the doors are locked until the next hourly service to stay in compliance with fire code occupancy restrictions. ADAMS-Ashburn chairman Syed Alam said people are routinely turned away and asked to wait.

So the worship center wants to move out of Beth Chaverim’s suite to another one a few doors down in the same building. This would allow the ADAMS branch to grow its services to 250 people at a time.

The ADAMS Center enjoys a happy relationship with its landlords and with Christian Fellowship Church across the street, which has made parking available to worshipers at the mosque.

But some business owners in the park say their operations are suffering.

“The business park cannot handle an increase in load from multiple dimensions,” said David Donald, founder of nearby Keeper Technology LLC.

“This is an incompatible weekday use in a business park with an already existing business parking problem,” said Karen Hannum Donald, adding the parking problem arose from Beth Chaverim’s “unchecked abuse” of its own special exception from 2006. Worship centers would usually be allowed by-right in that area, but a condition of approval on Beaumeade Corporate Park in 1999 specified that all uses must go through a special exception process.

Congregants wait outside the ADAMS Center at Beaumeade, waiting for the doors to open for the next service after being locked out. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)
Congregants wait outside the ADAMS Center at Beaumeade, waiting for the doors to open for the next service after being locked out. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

Currently, parking spots are blocked off to prevent ADAMS congregants from taking up businesses’ parking, and the congregation pays for two off-duty police officers to direct traffic and monitor parking spaces. Speakers and planning commissioners worried not only about parking around the building, but the additional parking across the street—Beaumeade Circle is a four-lane road with no median, which congregants would need to cross. The ADAMS Center has said it would shuttle people to and from the parking lot across the street and ask VDOT to put in a crosswalk.

Jennifer Elgin, from Beth Chaverim, and Michael Trivett from the Christian Fellowship Church, spoke in support of ADAMS’s application during the Planning Commission’s April 25 public hearing.

“We are not just adjacent or nearby the property,” Trivett said. “We are nearby in relationship with the mosque. We are building friendships every day.” He said his church’s agreements with the ADAMS Center have always worked out, and he has no complaints about the mosque.

County planners also recommended approval.

Planning commissioners, worried about parking and the impact on businesses, moved the ADAMS Center’s application to a work session for further discussion.

“There’s businesses that have substantial investment,” said Planning Commissioner Dan Lloyd (Sterling). “Their whole lives are on the line to be a success, and to disenfranchise these businesses, I really think we need to reconsider.”

rgreene@loudounnow.com
@RenssGreene